Coalition launches campaign for DC carbon tax
By Stephanie Doyle
While President Trump and his cabinet debate the merits of the Paris Climate Agreement, a coalition of groups isn’t waiting to take action on climate change. A carbon fee and rebate proposal launched in the nation’s capital looks to bring down DC’s emissions while protecting those most affected by rising energy costs.
The proposed bill includes a $20 per ton carbon dioxide fee, which rises $10 per year plus inflation, to meet DC’s ambitious emissions reduction goals of 50% by 2032. As for the revenue, 75% would be returned to DC residents in the form of direct dividends, while 20% would go to reinvestment into green energy projects and a 5% property tax reduction for local businesses. The bill aims to appease the general population of DC while also assuaging fears from the business community that they would be at a disadvantage with a carbon tax imposed.
Early analysis done by the Center for Climate Strategies shows that these numbers would lead to a reduction in emissions, while creating jobs, especially those in restaurants and construction. The full study, to be released in the coming weeks, shows that DC’s emissions could be brought down 23% while supporting the local economy and protecting the lowest income families. Part of this progressive nature is because some of the rebate is earmarked specifically for low income residents, meaning that for the lowest income quintile, they will get back $4 for every $1 spent on energy costs.
Because DC has no fossil fuel generation of its own, the fee is placed on energy companies that buy and sell electricity as well as heating to DC residents. There is also a provision to impose the fee on the transportation sector, important since almost one third of the District’s emissions come from transportation. The specifics of how that would be done (parking meter fee, car registration, etc.) is left to the Department of Transportation. Public forms of transportation are exempt from the fee.
Perhaps the most optimistic part of the DC campaign lies in the coalition formed ahead of the launch to draft and support the bill. The groups, who came together before a bill was officially decided on, range from labor, environmental justice, traditional environmental groups, faith groups and more. CCL DC, Sierra Club, Mom’s Clean Air Force, Interfaith Power and Light, SEIU, Americans for Transit, local businesses such as Zenful Bites and Pleasant Pops as well as Black Millennials for Flint, represent some of the groups supporting the effort. The effort was a strategic attempt to learn from the lessons of Washington State and create a powerful and diverse coalition to support the bill from the outset.
At the campaign launch on May 11, leaders from all of these groups and local residents gathered at the Wilson Building on Pennsylvania Avenue to hear speakers and release details of the plan. Speakers included Mark Kresowik of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, Jessica Martin, a Ward 7 activist, Reid Retchon a former Interfaith Power and Light board Member and Jeremiah Lowery, a climate justice organizer.
The wide range of states taking part in the creation of carbon tax bills that have been cropping up lately send encouraging signs to climate activists who worried nothing would get done during the Trump Administrations era. It also sends encouraging signs to those working at the national level. A diverse spread of climate policies in states that range from East to West coast has the potential to create best practices, lessons learned, and clear examples of functioning carbon pricing that should serve as a guide for politicans at the national level.